Joe Biden’s White House has asked the Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action in college admissions that holds Asian applicants to a higher standard and racially balances freshman classes.
This week, the Department of Justice filed a brief in Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. Harvard College. This lawsuit claims Harvard discriminates against Asian students and asks the Court to overturn previous holdings that allow racial profiling in college admissions nationwide. The government’s brief argues that the plaintiffs have not provided sufficient cause to change the applicable legal precedents.
The Supreme Court has not yet announced whether it will take up the appeal in the case, and in June, asked the Biden administration to weigh in on the issues through a brief.
The administration’s brief argues that the federal government has a “vital interest” in ensuring that the pool of candidates it chooses from to become “civilian and military leaders” is made up of a “well-qualified and diverse” group of college and service academy graduates.
The Court is expected to decide whether to hear the case this term before the end of January. If the appeal is granted, oral arguments will be scheduled in the spring, and a final decision will be expected before the end of the term in June of next year. The substantial caseload in the current term includes abortion and gun rights cases, and a decision on whether to hear the Harvard case may be passed over until the next term.
Students brought the case for Fair Admissions, an advocacy group that alleges that bias against Asian applicants affects the “personality appraisal” Harvard undertakes for each applicant. The lawsuit also alleges that Harvard uses racial quotas to build each class for admission. The federal district court where the case was filed and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled in favor of Harvard.
The administration argued in its brief that the lower courts ruled correctly and that there is no need to revisit the Court’s previous affirmative action cases. The brief says that Harvard’s admissions practices have been an “illuminating example” of nationwide admissions departments.
Even though Biden has publicly emphasized making female and minority appointments in his administration, many Democrats have criticized the level of Asian-American representation in the administration. Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) have said they would vote against some of Biden’s appointees because of the government’s overall lack of Asian representation.